July 11, 2011 – Fort Valley State University had a combined economic impact of $151.4 million and generated 1,760 jobs for the Fiscal Year 2011, according to a report released by the University System of Georgia on July 10. Study areas for the report included Peach, Houston, Bibb, Crawford, Macon and Taylor counties.
According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth study, the combined economic impact of the USG’s 35 institutions on local communities was $13.2 billion for the FY 2011, which is five percent higher than FY 2010. One finding of the report—increased jobs and spending—were not the result of institutional actions. Surprisingly, increased student spending generated more jobs off campus.
“FVSU student, faculty and visitor spending contribute to the local and regional economy by directly attracting students and visitors from around the country,” said Courtney Davenport, associate vice president of external affairs. “Spending by students and visitors to FVSU supports local employment in a variety of industries; including housing, restaurants, hotels, retailing and entertainment.”
Perry Swanson, president and chief executive officer of Peach County’s Chamber of Commerce, echoed Davenport’s assessment. “FVSU is a tremendous economic engine in our area,” he said. “More businesses need to pay attention to the student population here. Private investors sensitive to the needs and the opportunities afforded by the growing student population and staff of FVSU will undoubtedly benefit, as well as help increase the tax rolls of the city of Fort Valley.”
FVSU’s Kendra Chatman knows from firsthand observation the impact Wildcats make in Peach County. The junior criminal justice student is currently earning extra money through her part-time job at Harvey’s, a local grocery store. Chatman says that she and her supervisor, Marce Pitts, notice how business picks up when students return to the city.
“In my opinion, 80 percent of the money that businesses make here is from Fort Valley State students,” Chatman said. “When students are here, the store stays busy. If students leave town, we get the locals, but business tends to slow down a lot.”
The Lawrenceville, Ga. native continued, “I don’t think that the local businesses would able to survive without FVSU students. I usually visit Fred’s, Family Dollar, McDonald’s and Burger King. There are a lot of small businesses in the area, and [students] tend to go to them a lot.”
Fort Valley mayor, Dr. John E. Stumbo, says the university helps Fort Valley’s economy remain strong. “Most communities would give an eye’s tooth to have a university like Fort Valley State,” he said. “If the university weren’t here, we’d be a lot worse off as a community. FVSU is a major economic player in the area, and one of our major employers just like Blue Bird [bus company].”
One local company directly benefitting from FVSU students is Variety Wholesalers, Inc., which owns and operates several national department store chains. On August 2, the corporation will hold a ribbon cutting for the expansion of their Maxway store into a larger, department store, Roses, because of increased student business.
“We have shoppers from every age spectrum who come to our stores, but our young customer base has grown over the years,” says Cheryl Kane, a corporate trainer for Variety Wholesalers, Inc.
“FVSU’s escalating student enrollment is playing a very big part in our decision to expand. Two or three years ago, the economy wasn’t fantastic. Because of increased students, our sales have grown, so, we decided to take our property, expand Maxwayand change it into one of our largest stores, Roses, which has been in business for nearly 100 years.”
Another way the university’s economic muscle is influencing the local community is through revitalization efforts such as the $1.5 million Streetscape Project that launched this summer. The project has already provided new jobs to construction workers. Currently, plows are making way for new drainage pipes, sidewalks and street lamps.
“Our goal is that when families bring their prospective students out here, it will be a beautiful area, and students will be impressed and want to stay. We’ve torn down more than 60 dilapidated houses along the State University Drive area over the last three years, with the help of a separate grant,” said Stumbo. “These privately owned, vacant homes once belonged to people who lived out of town and didn’t take care of them. Now, at no cost, we’ve gotten rid of these [structures] and hauled off the debris.”
The mayor promises that once the changes are made, the corridor will be transformed into a street with hometown appeal, featuring aesthetic lamps, medians filled with flowers, trees and 200 rows of knockout rose bushes. The empty lots are being turned into “pocket parks,” with flower and vegetable gardens growing fresh produce to feed local families in need.
“The county government, the university and the city of Fort Valley have accomplished some incredible things,” the mayor said.
According to Stumbo, the city now sponsors an annual welcome-back event called “Fly Friday” to show students how much the community appreciates them. This year, Fly Friday is tentatively scheduled for August 17 at 6:30 p.m., on Main Street in Fort Valley. The public is encouraged to attend.
To read the full USG report, visit:http://www.usg.edu/economic_development/documents/PS-USGImpact2011.pdf.
Christina D. Milton, writer
Marketing and Communications
(478) 825-6319, firstname.lastname@example.org